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Celebrating school social work week March 5-11

Celebrating school social work week March 5-11

March 5-11, 2023 marks National School Social Work Week. At Osseo Area Schools, there are social workers at all building levels to help both general and special education scholars with academic and social-emotional needs. Here we feature just a few of the hard-working social workers who help give the district’s students the additional support they need to thrive.

Seinah Isaacs - Garden City and Park Brook elementary schools

Seinah Isaacs, a social worker at Garden City  and Park Brook Elementary Schools, said she originally got a degree in criminal justice and began working in that field before realizing that a career in social work would allow her to work proactively to help marginalized people versus reactively in the criminal justice system.

Isaacs said her number one priority as a school social worker is to remove any barriers to students’ learning or things that would prevent them from being a whole, healthy child. 

“When they can be a whole, healthy child, then they can learn,” she said.

Beyond work with individuals and small groups, Isaacs said she helps organize mobile dental clinics, helps families access affordable health care, medication and food for their children, and coordinates with families on school supplies, housing and more so that kids can come to school healthy, happy and able to learn.

Isaacs said the job is not easy work and it’s not for everyone, but she said every day social workers reset their emotional batteries so they’re ready to help. She said school social workers are dedicated to meeting the needs of all students, regardless of their background, to help them become lifelong learners. 

At the elementary level, Isaacs said social workers help form the foundation for scholars’ educational and life journey.

“If they have reading gaps or emotional hiccups here, middle school and high school is hard for them,” Isaacs said, “so we really work for them to be healthy. It’s a very rewarding career. We love our students, and we believe in them.”

Jennifer Taylor - Maple Grove and Brooklyn middle schools

Jennifer Taylor spent 15 years working in the child protection program as a guardian ad litem, but she always knew she wanted to get a degree in social work and work directly with kids. An opportunity to return to school presented itself in 2019, and she received her master’s degree in March 2022. 

With a bachelor’s degree in special education, Taylor said going into school social work felt like a natural fit with both her interests and skill set. 

Taylor works with individuals and small groups on things like social skills, mental health coping, self-advocacy and helping students respectfully explain what they need to be successful. She helps students process big emotions like anxiety and anger, coordinates with families and also helps coordinate events like adopt-a-family around the holiday season. 

Taylor splits her time between Maple Grove and Brooklyn Middle Schools, and she said there’s a continued high need for social workers, who provide important ongoing, problem-solving, skill-building relationships with kids. 

“It’s a fun job,” she said. “I love supporting the kids and getting to know them.” 

Heather Erickson - Osseo Middle School

Heather Erickson has been a school social worker at Osseo Middle School (OMS) for six years. Before working as a social worker, she worked in the school setting providing mental health therapy for kids. However, she wanted to be able to offer more support and make a bigger impact working directly at the schools so she could have more communication and collaboration with teachers and school staff and see the students more often.

Erickson has worked with students of all ages, but enjoys working with middle schoolers because it is a challenging few years of transition, and she can provide much needed support. 

“A highlight for me has been being able to build relationships with students that allowed them to feel comfortable seeking support in those times of need. I know when I was their age I would have loved to have a go-to support person, so it makes me really glad that I can be that person for the students here,” Erickson said.

While her days are always changing, Erickson works each day to meet with students one on one, facilitate groups with students, meet with parents, attend child study and student intervention team meetings, respond to support students in crisis, help connect families to community resources and work with other social workers, counselors and school staff to best support students at OMS.

“My favorite thing about OMS is being able to work with a diverse student population and the sense of community that OMS offers,” Erickson said. “Our support staff and teachers are constantly working together to meet the needs of our students.”

As a school social worker, Erickson is there to advocate and support students in the school setting and also support families as a whole. She can provide services or help link families to outside resources whether its housing, food or mental health services. She encourages parents/caregivers to reach out to their school if they are concerned about their student’s mental health. 

In her free time, Erickson likes to spend time with her husband and two year old son, going outside, trying new restaurants and traveling.